Markowitz looks ahead and back in State of the Boro address

February 2, 2012 Heather Chin
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There is a stretch of Church Avenue in East Flatbush that iscalled Bob Marley Boulevard, after the Jamaican-born musician wholeft an indelible mark on popular culture and a worldwide audiencewith songs about, among other things, unity, identity and sharedhumanity in a tumultuous world.

Those ideals, along with Marley’s lyrics to One Love, came tomind as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz delivered his2012 State of the Borough address – themed One Brooklyn – onWednesday, February 1, inside Brooklyn College’s Walt WhitmanHall.

The entertaining and enthusiastic speech focused on Brooklyn’sstrength in diversity and Markowitz’s goals of spurring jobs andcultural and economic development in the oft-ignored andeconomically-challenged central Brooklyn neighborhoods of East NewYork, Brownsville and Flatbush.

Some highlights included the allocation of $1 million for thetransformation of the Bedford-Union Armory into a community center,$2 million – half from Councilmember Mathieu Eugene – for creatinga home for the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce inside thelandmarked Erasmus Hall Academy (which stands inside Erasmus HallHigh School’s courtyard), and the designation of 3rd Ward, aneducation center in East Williamsburg, as a food-focused smallbusiness incubator.

The borough president also called on New York City to designatea location in either East New York or Brownsville for high-techmanufacturing, specifically an Apple manufacturing plant, andpromised a $1 million allocation to kick off the effort.

For those of us ‘old school’ Brooklynites who never gave up onBrooklyn, it has been an incredible experience to see the worldcatch up with what we’ve always known, Markowitz said to thethousand-person-plus crowd of politicians and community advocates.And for all the ways that Brooklyn has changed, our diversity andstatus as proud home to everyone from everywhere is, and alwayswill be, our strength.

This emphasis on economic development in the borough elicitedcheers and praise from the over 1,000 people in the audience,including Councilmembers David Greenfield and Jumaane Williams. Ihope Apple takes him up on [the idea], said Greenfield. Peoplefocus on the high-end jobs but we need [hands-on] jobs, too.

I’m very happy we’re focusing on real ways to get jobs whereBrooklyn needs it, added Williams, who represents Flatbush. Weneed to focus on how to stop the violence and it begins with thingslike jobs.

In addition, Markowitz praised public health campaigns such asLighten Up Brooklyn and Take Your Man to the Doctor, andcriticized the city’s effort to close public schools.

He also cheered on projects already in the headlines, includingthe creation of a Brooklyn Boulevard along Fourth Avenue throughPark Slope, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, as well ascontinuing his advocacy for bringing a casino to Coney Island, andbringing ferry service to Coney Island, Sheepshead Bayand Bay Ridge’s 69th Street Pier.

[Markowitz] told me he would be mentioning it and I said, ifyou mention it tonight, I’ll start banging the drums, saidCouncilmember Vincent Gentile, who has pushed for the return offerries to southern Brooklyn, especially after the city started apilot program with ferries going from Manhattanto Williamsburg and Brooklyn Heights last summer. I don’t see whyit can’t be a reality. Just make it a part of the pilotprogram.

Markowitz also took time out to salute Brooklynites who havemade a difference. I.S. 201 Principal Madeleine Brennan wascelebrated as a Brooklyn hero and community leader for her work asthe longest-serving principal in the country – shehas held the role for 48 years. Ridgeites Ruth and Martin Spenceralso got accolades for their accomplishment of 70 years ofmarriage.

Performances from Brooklyn youth groups were interspersedthroughout the evening, with pieces from the I.S. 201 Dyker HeightsConcert Band, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Hellenic ClassicalCharter School’s Greek Folk Dancers, and 15-year-old Brian AstroBradley who sang his hit Stop Looking at My Mom.

There was also a video performance from diverse array ofBrooklyn residents from Downtown and Park Slope to Boro Park andSheepshead Bay, all singing the Coney Island Boogie, which waswritten by New Yorker Michael Ress.

The State of the Borough will be aired on Brooklyn IndependentTelevision on Friday, February 3, at 9 p.m., and Monday, February6, at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. It can also be watched after February 6

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